Cameron: Some progress but no deal yet
Friday, 19 February 2016 14:03
Media captionCameron: Some progress but still no deal

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has resumed talks at the EU summit saying there had been "some progress" overnight but "there's still no deal".

Mr Cameron was negotiating until 05:30 GMT and is now holding one-to-one meetings with EU leaders.

He aims to get a deal by the end of the two day summit later on Friday so that he can push ahead with plans for a referendum in June.

But significant sticking points remain on benefit curbs and EU regulations.

European Council President Donald Tusk said there had been "some progress" but "a lot still remains to be done".

The aim is to try and reach a deal at an "English lunch" from 14:30 GMT - two hours later than planned.

But there is speculation that talks could continue over the weekend.

Mr Cameron's plan had been to get a deal on Friday morning and then head back to London for an emergency cabinet meeting at which he would commit the government to campaign for Britain to stay in a reformed EU. That would trigger the start of the referendum campaign and allow ministers who want Britain to leave the EU to speak out.

But Downing Street sources have told the BBC it was increasingly unlikely a cabinet meeting would now be held on Friday.

They said it was still possible a deal could be done but they "genuinely don't know" whether it will happen.

Media captionEU Council President Donald Tusk gave a short press conference overnightMedia captionKatya Adler looks at which European countries David Cameron can count on

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was reported by the Reuters news agency as saying it had become "clear that agreement will not be easy for many, but that the will is there".

Arriving at the summit venue on Friday morning, French President Francois Hollande made it clear that France continues to resist a deal on financial regulation aimed at protecting the City of London from new regulations imposed by the eurozone countries.

"Since last night, there are proposals that have been changed, notably on what concerns France - the wish to have a financial regulation system which is valid in all parts of Europe, and that there should be no right of veto or prevention."

The first EU Council session ended on Thursday with no agreement on several issues, and an EU source said that while it had been "intense and constructive" with all the countries confirming their wish for the UK to stay in the bloc, some also set out specific concerns.


Image copyrightReuters

By assistant political editor Norman Smith

The ongoing tussle in Brussels has been seized on at Westminster by both sides in this debate.

Supporters of the prime minister say it underlines how fundamental the changes are the prime minister is seeking - in terms of curbing migration, safeguards for the City and an opt out from further political integration.

Opponents insist the difficulties show how resistant Brussels is to even modest reform.

Former cabinet minister and leading Eurosceptic Owen Paterson dismissed the talks as a sideshow, a pantomime.

Meanwhile, both campaigns are preparing for the possibility that a deal may not be done in time to hold a cabinet meeting later today - which may now have to be postponed until tomorrow.

Once that is held, however, ministers will at last be free to campaign on both sides of the argument - with a number of ministers opposed to Britain's membership expected to speak out over the weekend.

"We expected this," the EU source said: "But honestly we had hoped for some of them to be less critical."

An EU source spoke of five key areas where agreement had not been reached:

  • How the EU's binding treaties will be altered to make the changes
  • How many member states can trigger an "emergency brake" on migrant welfare
  • For how long a member state can impose restrictions on in-work benefits for migrants
  • Whether child benefit curbs can be applied retrospectively
  • Changing treaties to alter the principle of "ever-closer" union

It is understood Mr Cameron continues to face resistance to his plans to curb in-work benefits for EU migrants.

But he is thought to have rejected calls from the Central European nations, represented in the overnight talks by Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka, for cuts in child benefit for offspring living overseas to be imposed only on new migrants.

Belgium - backed by France - proposed that the summit conclusions should state that any deal agreed this week is final and the EU will not come back with an improved offer if Britain votes to leave.

The move is designed to kill off the idea, backed by some Eurosceptics that a Leave vote would give the UK leverage to extract further concessions from the EU before a second poll.

Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption David Cameron met Italian PM Matteo Renz for talks on Friday morning Image copyrightAPImage caption Donald Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker and David Cameron held talks in the early hours on Friday Image copyrightEPAImage caption Angela Merkel deep in conversation with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras Image copyrightGetty ImagesImage caption Talks about the UK deal continued overnight - Mr Cameron left at 5:30am local time

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said he expected Mr Cameron to come back with a deal from Brussels, as the other leaders would recognise how "embarrassing" it would be for him to return empty-handed.

But he added: "He hasn't asked for us to get back supremacy for our Parliament, he hasn't asked for us to control our own borders, he hasn't asked to reduce the vast daily fees we pay.

"We will be allowed - after he has come here like Oliver Twist and begged for concessions - to control migrant benefits for up to four years. I find the whole thing as a British person pretty shameful."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would be campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU - but he branded David Cameron's renegotiations "a theatrical sideshow, designed to appease his opponents within the Conservative Party".

Media captionA simple guide to how the European Union works

What happens next?


14:30 GMT: If agreement looks likely, leaders to have an "English lunch"

If David Cameron gets a deal, he will return to the UK as quickly as possible to hold an emergency cabinet meeting to reach an agreed position on remaining in the EU. At this point, ministers who want Britain out of the EU will be allowed to speak out.

Mr Cameron may then announce the date of the UK's referendum, although he does not have to do so

17 March:

The next scheduled EU summit - at which Mr Cameron could have another chance to get a deal. There has also been talk of a special summit at the end of February

Thursday 23 June:

Still seen as the most likely date of a UK referendum if Mr Cameron gets a deal in February or March, but he has until the end of 2017 to hold one

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